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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Firm Despite Ukrainian Pullout

APYushchenko and Bush heading for a White House news conference Monday.
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday that seeing Iraq through reconstruction to a stable and secure democracy was a worthy cause that the United States would press regardless of whether coalition partners such as Ukraine remained there.

"The fundamental question is: 'Is it worth it?' And the answer is, 'Absolutely, it's worth it for a free Iraq to emerge,'" said Bush, standing alongside visiting Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who is pulling his country's 1,650 troops out of the country to fulfill a campaign promise.

"I fully understand that," Bush said. "But he also said he's going to cooperate with the coalition in terms of further withdrawals. And I appreciate that."

Two years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, the coalition has been crumbling. Dozens of countries have pulled out or begun bringing home troops.

Ukraine sent some 1,650 troops to Iraq in a move widely seen as an attempt to smooth relations with the United States. However, the deployment was widely unpopular at home, and Ukraine has begun withdrawing troops. Yushchenko said the pullout would likely be completed in the fall.

Yushchenko was elected in December after surviving dioxin poisoning that left his face disfigured. He blames the poisoning on the regime of his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma, who had supported Yushchenko's opponent in the election.

Yushchenko said Ukraine and the United States had embarked on a new era of strategic partnership and friendship between peoples.

"We are looking forward to the effective support from the U.S. administration to the new government of Ukraine in addressing important issues faced by ourselves, including our accession to WTO by the end of 2005, the lifting of the trade sanctions on Ukrainian exported goods, Ukraine's accession to European and Euro-Atlantic security alliances," he said.

Bush promised to support Ukraine's bid to join the World Trade Organization by the end of this year and to seek to persuade Congress to lift remaining trade restrictions on Ukraine that are a vestige of the Cold War.

Bush was less committal on Ukraine's bid to join NATO, although he said, "There is a way forward ... to become a partner of the United States and other nations in NATO."

"It is a path and we want to help Ukraine get on that path as quickly as possible," Bush said.

Bush called Yushchenko a courageous leader, "a friend to our country and an inspiration to all who love liberty."

"The world is changing. Freedom is spreading," Bush said, citing Ukraine, Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of fledgling democracies.

For his part, Yushchenko said, "Our ideals are simple and eternal. We want democracy and freedom."

He said that ending corruption and easing poverty remain top priorities. He asserted that he was committed to nourishing the rule of law and human rights in his country.

Yushchenko, who will address Congress later in the week, is visiting to lobby for aid and investment and greet Ukrainian-Americans on an itinerary that takes him to New York, Chicago and Boston, accompanied by his wife, Kateryna, an American-born Ukrainian.